Team Talk: Balancing Human And Machine
11th July 2017
At Trussle, we’re constantly looking at ways to use technology to make our customers’ home ownership easier. But home ownership is an emotional pursuit as well as a financial one - people are often initially confused about the mortgage process, or stressed out about its complexity. When emotions are on the table, you want someone to empathise and understand you - something machines aren’t good at (for now).
So how do you balance the power and speed of technology with the care and empathy of a human? I’m going to talk about the kinds of decisions we have to make around this subject in Trussle’s Product Development Team.
We think the human touch is very important, but we need to make sure it scales: we need to be able to deliver a personalised, human service to more and more people. The question is, how can you achieve that?
Hire hundreds of mortgage advisers?
Other mortgage brokers have tackled this with growing their team as they scale: this gives customers the human touch, but because staff are one of the biggest costs of a company, a big mortgages team gets expensive quickly. At Trussle, we want to make sure we stay free for customers, so this is simply not an option.
Hiring more and more mortgage advisers doesn’t solve everything. There’s no guarantee of consistency with a huge Mortgages Team, and we’d expect to see some behaviour biases that can’t be controlled. Hiring to fit the 24/7 model doesn’t work either - it’s unrealistic (not to mention being completely inhumane!) to expect 24/7 cover, so by definition, accessibility is limited. Instead, we’re building tools for our Mortgages Team (our mortgage advisers) so they can do their job better, but also faster. This frees up their time so they can do what they love and what they’re good at: talking to customers.
Whilst computers are experts when it comes to computational decisions and analysing huge data sets, our advisers are experts at advising and showing empathy. By using both, our customers enjoy the best of both worlds.
Our Mortgages Team are already dealing with many more customers than a traditional broker could, thanks in part to our Broker Admin Tool, or the BAT for short. (Yes, there are lots of Batman references in there.)
The BAT already does a bunch of clever things to help our advisers:
We perform affordability checks automatically to see how much we think you can afford.
We highlight unusual application information to warn advisers of potential issues with an application.
We’ve even got a mortgage product search engine that looks at your application and filters to find the right mortgage for you.
All of these features allow advisers to help more people in less time. We’re constantly developing the BAT to make it cleverer, quicker, and easier to use.
Our automatic affordability check makes sure the applicant can roughly afford a property, and provides a useful set of numbers for the adviser.
Power to the customer
Where we can, we like to give our customers the power to help themselves. This gives our customers the ability to handle their mortgage application whenever they like and makes them feel more in control of their mortgage. It also gives the Mortgages Team some time back so they can deal with more customers at the same time.
We’re proud of our Mortgage in Principle service. It calculates how much you can afford based on the affordability calculators of several lenders. Around 80% of our Mortgage in Principle certificates are now automatically calculated, which means you can even get a Mortgage in Principle from us at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning. (We know you’re out there.)
Our Mortgage in Principle is automatically generated around 80% of the time.
We’re working on a project right now to allow customers to explore mortgage products on the market before they get a recommendation from an adviser. You can do this on comparison websites already, but we want to integrate it with our home-grown eligibility engine so you only see the deals you can actually get - not just all the deals on the market. Watch this space!
Despite all these clever tools, sometimes customers need help - they might have a question, or just want someone to talk through their application with them. To help with this, we’ve put our Live Chat feature on every page of our application process, so customers can get in touch with a real person on our Mortgages Team when they need to. In the future, we’re looking at even quicker ways for customers to help themselves - keep an eye out!
Managed by humans
Trussle is not a fully automated service. Behind the scenes, our Mortgages Team check through recommendations, respond to customers, ask for updates from lenders, and lots of other tasks that allow us to provide a great service to the customer.
Does this mean Trussle is a ‘robo-adviser’?
The term “robo-adviser” is quite trendy at the moment. We’ve been described as a robo-adviser - so we could have tried to make the Trussle site look completely automated. However, our reviews are usually about the people in the Mortgages Team, and home-buying is an emotional - and therefore human - process.
In the Product Development Team, we need to build things into our service that let the customer know that there’s someone looking after their application.
One of the ways we’ve done that is by telling you who sourced your recommendation when we send it to you. We even show you a picture of them. This shows the customer that their recommendation was created by an expert, and gives you someone to contact if you have questions.
Our recommendation emails tell you who is looking after your application.
Balancing the scaling advantages of technology with the flexibility and empathy of people is often difficult. (It certainly leads to a few heated debates in the Product Development Team!) As Trussle grows, it’ll get harder and harder to keep the genuine human connection between advisers and customers - but we think it’s worth it for the experience that results from getting that balance just right.
Psst, we’re hiring! Take a look at our vacancies - we’d love to hear from you.